A Glass Half Empty

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Hello Jean Marc! Where’ve you been hiding yourself recently? What do you fancy?

Oh, a glass of Claude’s rose would go down well….no more of Albert’s white these days I suppose?

No…what with having to pull out so many of his vines thanks to getting esca supplies are a bit limited, even for us and it seems Victor bought a whole barrique off him.

Victor! Spending money!

Well, no…more like a swap, I think. Young Laurent is clearing the vines and a few other jobs in return….but I shouldn’t be telling you that, you being a taxman and all!

Not my problem anyway….and when have I ever shopped anyone? I believe in letting people alone…and I just wish they’d feel the same about me.

Well, you can’t say that the tax offices are exactly bursting at the seams with happy people dropping in to say ‘Bonjour’ can you!

No….usually you only see them a week before their tax returns are due when they all come rolling in wanting us to fill out the forms for them.
Not that I mind. I like to see the oldies and have a chat..makes a change from staring at a screen all day.
No, it’s just that since it all came out about our beloved Budget Minister having secret Swiss and Singapore bank accounts life’s not worth living for us at the tax office.
You go out for lunch and some clown’s asking you if you want to pay in euros or Swiss francs….and I’ve lost count of the people who’ve come up to me in the street and started on about politicians…as if I can do anything about it!

You’re not the only one with problems on that score.
Clement was in last night and he said Plouc’s office was full of worried clients, wondering just where their respected notaire had stuffed the money they’ve been hiding from you lot….and Madame d’Enculade was on the ‘phone all day…gibbering away.

Well, she generally is after eleven in the morning at the best of times…

Anyway, Clement put two and two together.
You know her husband is always going to Singapore on business trips?

Yes, to get away from his wife and enjoy a bit of more congenial company I always thought – after all what business can a guy with a fur coat firm do in Singapore except run up expenses to claim against tax?

Plouc’s business, that’s what. Clement reckons he’s a courrier for Plouc and his mate at the Credit Agricole and that’s why his wife was having fits. Worried about her fur coat days coming to an end…

I wouldn’t think she has much to worry about…Plouc’ll be the next deputy come the elections so no one’s going to touch his little activities, are they now!
Look at what happened to the taxman who fell foul of our minister when he was just a deputy!
He’d done an inspection of a big prune co op and found they’d been fiddling the books for years, so slapped them with a huge amount of back tax.
They go bleating to the deputy who arranges with his mate, the then Budget Minister, to let them off the hook while the poor bugger of a taxman is told to sling his.
He had his doubts about the deputy, even then some twenty years ago, but when he started looking into his affairs he was disciplined…no promotion and no work. Sitting there twiddling his thumbs waiting for retirement.
I tell you, Plouc has nothing to worry about!

Yes, I suppose you’re right….
Look at the way Dubas, the Senator here, carried on for years.
Whopping loans from Credit Agricole based on a few securities he was allowed to keep in his own safe deposit box at the bank then one fine day he walks in and takes them out. And the bank says nothing.

And when there was a change of government and they went after him look what happened!

Yes, the local court let him off and poor Alain the bank manager got it in the neck! What could he do about it…he ‘phoned the regional office and they told him to let Dubas do as he pleased….

Now that’s a bastard whose affairs I’d love to look into….but fat chance. He’s untouchable round here. Knows where the bodies are buried.

Probably ordered the burials from what I hear.
No, I see what you mean. Plouc’s safe and so are his clients.
Still, aren’t the politicians going to have to declare what they’ve got?

For what that’s worth! Did you hear Sarko’s prime minister on the box?

Yes, he said he had a house he bought twenty years ago, a bit in the bank and two old bangers…

Which, given his huge estate north of Paris, is a bit like Louis XIV claiming Versailles as a garden shed and his golden coach as a wheelbarrow – and you notice he didn’t mention the shares he has in his consultancy business.
No, they’ll find a way to fiddle it….just the way Plouc’s been advising his clients for years to avoid tax on their property.

How does he do that?

Easy peasy. You put the property into an SCI – a property company held by you and your family. Then, just like the banks with their sub prime mortgages you start chopping it up. One person has the usufruit….the right to use the property for their lifetime…and you – the bigwig – have the nu propriete…..that is the title to it.
So you don’t have any value in it…but when your front man dies you don’t have to pay inheritance tax because it was yours all along. Just need to be a bit careful who has the usufruit, but apart from that it’s foolproof.

Oh. So is that how Hollandouille fiddled his wealth tax when he stood for President?

No. He just used the criteria of a different tax by which he would come in under the figure to pay it.

But didn’t anyone notice?

Of course they did….but remember what happened to the taxman with the prunes.
You don’t want to spend the rest of your working life in an windowless office with no computer and nothing to do, do you!

So what about all this tax evasion…foreign bank accounts and whatnot?

And how are we going to find out about them, tell me that! They’re hardly likely to own up!
No, I’ll tell you what will happen.
We’ll be instructed to look at all the retired English. They have pensions and a lot of them have them paid into their bank accounts in England.
Most of them don’t have much French and don’t know how to read their tax forms so don’t know they are supposed to declare any bank accounts held outside France.

Well, so has everyone who lives in France, whether they’re French or foreign.

Yes, but most of us have no reason to have a foreign bank account where these English do. So they’re easy meat.
They do their tax return and say what their income is and whatever and then if it looks as if their pension is paid abroad we’ll spring on them and ask them what account it’s paid into.
If they can’t explain it away except by having an account abroad we’ll fine them 1,500 Euros and ask them to justify everything for the last ten years.

That’s a bit rotten, isn’t it! After all, they’re declaring their income.

Well, that’s how it will be. You know how this country is run.
You let the small guys work on the black to keep them quiet: you let the big guys pay their banks and lawyers to hide their money and you wallop the people in the middle.
This way we’ll make any number of investigations, rake in the fines and the government will say its strategy of tax evasion is working while the big boys carry on as usual.

For goodness’ sake! We need another revolution!

And I need another drink…..yes, another one of Claude’s will be fine….

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31 thoughts on “A Glass Half Empty”

  1. haha! I started reading that and thought about the alleged Spanish Swiss bank accounts scandal for ministers, and remembered the illegal wealth tax that we paid, and well, you get the idea. It would be a good post, if sadly it wasn’t so true. In any country. I am still knocked out by the fact that I have only just discovered Blair owns nine bloody houses including his main residence in Connaught Square. Even I only own three, two of which are on the same property. Greedy bastard.

  2. I was talking to our senior adjoint the other day (who is a friend). He was clearly very embarrassed by the revelations about Cahuzac and how it makes France appear internationally. I must go down to the mairie and register to vote…Our current mayor is probably going to retire at the end of his term, so campaigning will be intense and I’d like to vote.
    I enjoyed Hollandouille — that made me laugh out loud.

    1. What bothers me is not so much the magouille….but the reprisals against whistleblowers.
      Not just in France either…remember the EU scandal and Kinnock (of all people) being drafted in to clear it up?
      First action….sanctions on the main whistleblower!

  3. Wonderful acerbic piece, Helen. It really is outrageous. They make my blood boil and give me a horrid taste in my mouth – it’s awful that helpless fury is so….well, helpless!
    Love that last comment to tynecastle!
    Axxx aka The Stoned Snail.

    1. And they wonder that people eventually resort to violence…what other option is open!
      Blow the whistle…lose your career.
      What goes on is a matter of public knowledge….but putting the head over the parapet results in it being blown off.

    1. She and her husband run a mink business….controlling every step of the process.

      I have a plague of ragondin (nutria) (coypu) at the place in France…you’re very welcome to take as many as you like.
      The fur was once very popular for those whop couldn’t afford mink. and the ragondin makes good eating as long as you don{t let the anticpated diners see the orange teeth and the long scaly tail.

  4. When all is said and done, the working and middle classes will be destroyed and others will have little opportunity to move up…

  5. Aren’t you glad you got out, Helen? I know things aren’t exactly rosy on this side of the Channel, but somehow French politicians seem so brazenly hypocritical that they make many of ours look like amateurs.

  6. I love your writing style Helen. Perhaps Gerard D could star in the film version? How’s corruption in Costa Rica – dare I ask?

    1. Corruption in Costa Rica is alive and well…..and very much resented.
      On Thursday demonstrators were throwing rocks at politicians over the award of a concession to build a toll road………….

  7. Perhaps we should throw rocks at politicians here as well, sounds like good sport to me! I see tonight’s headline is “Could Nicolas Sarkozy return to French politics?” Guess it cannot get worse.

    Cheers. Have a good weekend. Diane

    1. Next thing we know it will be Dominique Strauss-Kahn…….

      Yes, I’m all for rock throwing….the politicians here think they’ve solved the problem by inviting local mayors to talk about the proposed road (something they refused to do when the project was announced) – but it’s not the local mayors they have to worry about…it’s the rock throwers who are quite happy to repeat the experiment.

      Just off to collect a few rocks….

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